Urban and even suburban environments have increasingly higher decibel levels. It is a well-known fact that noise adds stress to our bodies. Our senses continually process input consciously or unconsciously. For many people body downtime is hard to come by.
Ever sat in a restaurant and you could hear everyone around you but the person across the table from you with whom you came to enjoy a meal? This is a classic problem of insufficient noise control. The good news: it can be remedied. I often wonder why restaurant designers miss this part of restaurant design. It is such an important element in the enjoyment of a place & does effect whether customers return to a place.
Are there home improvement products that dampen sound in our homes, apartments, offices and public spaces? Are there materials that can return our homes to more peaceful sanctuaries? The answer is “YES”.
Not surprisingly, there are more and more products coming onto the market that promise sound reduction. We examine them here so that you can choose the right home improvement products in your upcoming home remodels.
Essentially, acoustical home improvement products fall into two product categories: One of those that block sound from the outside and two, products which provide sound absorption.
Sheetrock: Soundproofing drywall has been around for a number of years. The level of sound dampening depends on the thickness of the drywall and also the laying given to drywall. Each drywall 4×8 sheet consist of a system of layers. Specifically, a viscoelastic polymer layer is sandwiched by traditional gypsum. Continuing this system with manufacturers commonly also sell acoustical glues to provide even more noise control.
One tip: it is best to refrain from specialty wall finishes such as faux plaster finishes. Plaster is a hard surface that deflects noise instead of allowing sound waves to get to the viscoelectric membrane where they can be absorbed or neutralized.
Windows: Windows are in the first sound deflection group of home improvement products. In the past, so-called triple pane glass would dampen noise from the outside. It used to be pretty much the only solution. For a number of years special acoustical windows featured a diagonally or angled layer of glass between two outer glass surfaces. Recently, advances in new materials have created new – and I might add – exciting options. Pleotint, Inc. offers a window film that catches the proverbial two birds in one stroke. The Pleotint sunlight responsive thermochromic film (SRT) reflects sunlight to avoid solar heat build up inside a house or office AND it keeps outside noise out. It keeps outside noise out! It is state-of-the art technology- in fact so new that window manufacturers are evaluating the product presently. Homeowners: demand it with your upcoming window purchases!
Wood Flooring: Wood is an acoustically “hard” surface. Different manufacturers produce a variety of rubber and foam underlayment products. They work! Everyone who installs a new floor should include these underlayments. Especially when kitchen and living spaces are open to each other acoustical underlayment will dampen down the clanking kitchen noise that might otherwise interfere with someone’s reading or watching TV.
Tile Flooring: Everyone would concur that tile has no noise absorption. Great noise improvement can again be achieved with underlayments. There is acoustical foam underlayment. However it should not be used in combination with electric radiant heat installations.
Insulation: If you have ever built a house or added a new structure you know how sounds is muffled the moment insulation is installed. All insulation products have this effect. It is important to avoid compression of insulation to achieve maximum noise control. There are specialty-type acoustical insulations – every effective.
Wall Underlayments: Accoustical liners are another superb way of reducing noise. They work by absorbing sound waves. Manufacturers’ specifications typically carefully list what sound wave spectrum gets best absorbed by which specific product. Once insulation is installed the layer of wall underlayment gets tacked over the entire surface prior to the hanging of gypsum wall / sheetrock.
Wall /Ceiling Treatments: Much like wallpaper, walls can be lined with special noise absorbing fabrics and fabric panels. This is best left as a professional installation. It can be an attractive looking solution and might be a good solution when the opening of walls is not an option.
Home Décor: Curtains can be lined with a certain type of fabric commonly known as “bumper fabric”. It adds quite a bit of weight to the curtain but the noise absorption is terrific especially since curtains are naturally waving structure, which breaks up sound refractions. The right materials make even an audiophile happy who set out with the impossible: convert a large living room space with high ceilings, hard plaster walls and hardwood floors into a listening room.
One final note: Constant and thus often aggravating noise in a home environment can come from unskillfully installed equipment – otherwise known as rattles. In this case vibration mounts are usually the answer. A case in point might be the airhandler in your attic. Unless it is suspended from rafters or sits on airhandler vibration mounts air-handler unit is likely to rattle day and night…talk about stress.